Monday, November 16, 2015

The Folly of Housecleaning by a Bachelor

Here's a very different take on housework and cleaning from a bachelor's perspective. It's a fun read, enjoy!

As a bachelor who has lived with various married brothers, I want to enter my protest against the senseless practice of house-cleaning. Cannot housewives see that the act is an admission of poor house-keeping ability? A well-kept house is clean. This is an axiom. And if it is clean, where is the need of house-cleaning?
I am not the first man to cry out against this practice. I remember to have read numerous articles by the funny men of the press directed against this vice, but to me the affair has no funny side. Is it humorous to have to move all your belongings from one room to another in a vain effort to escape the deadly ravages of the housewife? Is it a joke to have to eat your meals on the gas-stove and do your writing on the stationary tubs while your wife and the maids are rubbing imaginary dirt from the dining-room and sweeping it from your study?

A woman with the fever of housecleaning upon her is not responsible for her acts. There is no woman living who is so sweet-tempered that she can go through an attack of housecleaning without turning—her temper. There is no man alive who is so angelic that he can avoid giving his wife offense while she is under the fell influence of the national disease. Does a man tell you he helped his wife put up or take down the dining-room stove without any hard words? Trust him not, he is fooling thee, as Longfellow was in the habit of saying.

A soft answer turneth away wrath, but not when you are helping your wife take up the matting. She will bowl over your soft answer with words hard enough to drive tacks. If a young man instead of trying to find out the quality of his fiancee's temper by taking her to the theatre and to evening parties, would visit her at her home when she and her mother are roaming unshackled all over the house in the last stages of house-cleaning, marriage would not be so lightly entered into, nor would divorces be so disgustingly prevalent.

Nor is a woman to be blamed for becoming infuriated over the process of house-cleaning. A man may be in Wall Street during a panic, he may be the overseer of a gang of incompetents, he may be superintendent of an insane asylum, but he will never have any experiences so trying to his temper as the useless but seemingly inevitable experience of house-cleaning.

I picked up a paper this morning, and in the local notes was the report of an accident to a young woman. She had smashed her thumb while housecleaning. Is a clean house worth a flattened thumb? Are spick-and-span rooms worth the alienation of a husband's affections?

What is it to the minister that his wainscoting looks fresh and clean, when the style of his sermon has been muddied by many interruptions? Why s hould the poet be proud that his wife has polished the legs of the piano and brightened the hands of the clock, when the feet of his poem have been so injured that they limp under the stern eye of the reviewer? What is it to the domestic man that his bedroom is sweet and fresh while the wife of his bosom is hag-worn and soured by the process?

House-breaking is less of a crime than house-cleaning. It is less insidious. It is attended with fewer hard words, with much less noise and displacement of dust, and it is accomplished by an avowed enemy of society instead of by the companion of your life-journey. And it is vastly more successful—from the burglar's point of view at least.
I knew a man in Chicago who made a practice of never marrying until after his prospective wife had finished her annual house-cleaning. As a consequence, his marriages were singularly happy ones.

But the most diabolical kind of house-cleaning is that form which attacks some women who have had generations of thrifty and neat forebears, but who themselves are anything but neat. With these women house-cleaning is an involuntary act. They go through the motions, they have all the symptoms in their most aggravated form; the husband eats in the kitchen; the wife's temper is lost beyond hope of a clew; and in spite of all the house is not clean. They are like the dog who turns around thrice before lying down—he knows not why; or the hen brought up on a macadamized floor, who scratches as hard as did her ancestors in the garden.

Women who in other respects are singularly open to reason, and whose minds are as progressive as a game of euchre, will stand up for this habit with all the narrow-mindedness of a backwoods woman. Ask any woman of your acquaintance whether she believes in cleaning house, and she will look at you as though she thought your sanity in doubt. Then ask any married man, and he will tell you that the vermiform appendix is not moreuseless than house-cleaning. With this difference of opinion between the sexes, it is easy to fancy the bitter' words that are laid to the credit of a couple that have been married sixty years, and whose house has been devastated three-score times by the whirlwind of house-cleaning.

Spring would be the most delightful season of the year if house-cleaning were abolished. To the house-cleaner the odors of the woods and fields appeal in vain; sweeter to her is the smell of soap and patent cleansers. The tender grace of the adolescent maple leaves is as nothing while the walnut leaves of the extension-table need scouring.
Happy is that man whose wife never allows her house to get dirty, for tohim house-cleaning shall be unknown, and the passage of the lives of the twain shall be as unruffled as that of two leaves on the bosom of a placid stream. And the address of that wife shall be found in the directory of the millenium.—Charles Battel Loomis, in Harper's Bazar.


  1. Jeepers! Don't you wonder what made that man have such a negative perspective of house cleaning? I'd hate to see the place he lived.